Table Manners Review

The waitstaff was incredible.

Toward the end of one dinner in Table Manners, my date requested I feed him a slice of my pizza. I suddenly recalled that I’d begun the meal with pizza on my plate. I scanned the scattered mess that our table had become: French fries, asparagus, and tomatoes strewn about; salt and pepper shakers toppled; wine glasses a hair away from plummeting off the table’s edge and shattering. To my delight, among the chaos, I found a single slice of pizza intact. I snatched it off the table and pressed it to my date’s lips. Finger guns. A blown kiss. Hearts. My date was happy.

Common dating advice dictates that first dates should be short and easily escapable; casual drinks or coffee are preferred options. A full-blown meal is perhaps the least useful or interesting first date, and Table Manners bears this out. Table Manners tasks players with embodying a horny floating hand and swiping through the in-game dating app, Blundr, in search of handsome folks to woo with their beverage-pouring skills.

I meant to swipe left

Though Table Manners will certainly draw a comparison to other physics simulators like Surgeon Simulator, the target of its satire is more mundane and relatable: twenty-first-century dating culture. For me, this makes Table Manners incredibly engaging. More than the actual dates, I enjoyed my initial perusal of Blundr. The messaging system is hilariously limited. With only six vague communication options as tools for engaging with potential suitors, the responses I received were wildly unpredictable. Early in my experimenting with Blundr, I kept engaging with hopeful prospect Nigel, furiously clicking “Apologize” for my bad puns, when suddenly he blocked me.

It’s impossible to please the men of Blundr, and that feels like a perfect recreation of interactions on real-world dating apps. In that way, the futility of Blundr feels right, but I also wish the interactions available were more extensive because the app was the gameplay element in Table Manners that I connected with most. Ultimately, the app only exists to choose an appropriate victim for your inevitably miserable dates.

Everything needs more ketchup

The dates are messy. While manipulating the inexorably cumbersome horny hand seemed difficult at first, I quickly acclimated to Table Manners’ rhythms. The key, especially during any first attempt at a date, is to go slow. Pouring wine and lighting candles become, often enjoyable, exercises in patience. The incremental introduction of new tasks throughout a date made triage equally essential, necessitating that I abandon tasks I had no hope of completing in favour of easier ones. Moreover, I appreciated that new restaurants and accompanying mechanics unlock and provide escalating challenges at appropriately paced intervals. Even more impressive, Table Manners never felt punishing.

After practising a date several times, I could almost always smoothly enact the desired tasks with flourish. However, I wish the dates allowed for some kind of conversational interaction—similar to those found in other dating sims but more complex than the Blundr element on display here—with my partner, mirroring the physical gymnastics with an equally convoluted ballet of wordplay. Some kind of evolving intellectual relationship might have made me more invested in the comedy of physics and reaching each subsequent restaurant location.

Hands up if dating is hard because people are scary

The small details make Table Manners truly charming. I often tossed bottles and food aside when I no longer needed them; surprisingly, these objects don’t disappear, so I delighted in glancing at the landfill accumulating around my date’s feet. Table Manners is also elegantly inclusive. There’s a simple option that allows players to select the preferred gender of their dates, and horny hand is entirely genderless. In fact, the various accessories available to adorn the hand make players’ gender expression through their avatar quite natural and fluid. I was equally impressed by the diversity of potential partners created from a relatively small pool of assets. The suitors look appropriately modern in appearance, decked out in piercings and stylish haircuts.

Table Manners is a joyful if simplistic, parody of modern dating. To its credit, while I never fell in love with Table Manners, I can’t stop considering places it might go from where it is now. What if other dates like movie theatres or walks in the park were similarly simulated with outrageous physics? What if hookups were simulated in this way? Table Manners is a lovely romp. My main complaint is that I couldn’t leave a tip for the waitstaff who cleaned the tables left in my wake.

[Reviewed on PC]